Unintended Brexit Consequences Continue - UK Telecom Companies Don't Tell Customers When They're Paying Massive Fees For Roaming Data

Telecom researcher and regulator Ofcom has proposed redefining regulations that could protect United Kingdom residents from extra costs on texts, calls, and data while abroad.

The proposed regulatory framework is to mitigate the massive roaming fees incurred by UK travelers in European Union (EU) countries.

UK Exit From European Union Discontinued Free Roaming

The United Kingdom exited the European Union (EU) on January 31st, 2020. This was after two years of negotiation, which officially started in 2017 by former Prime Minister Theresa May.

The move was considered politically inclined, which bordered on sovereignty, immigration, anti-establishment politics, and economic freedom for the UK.

Following the success of the country’s exit from the EU, Brexit was formed. This is a portmanteau of the words “British” and “exit,” coined to allude to the nation’s brave exit from alleged inconvenient EU policies.

However, the UK and EU struck a provisional free-trade agreement on December 24th, 2020

This ensured that the trade of goods and services between Brexit and the EU countries (Germany, France, Croatia, Netherlands, and Belgium) was free without quotas or tariffs.

The European Union Parliament approved this provisional agreement on April 28th, 2021. This would enable preferential treatment, a level playing field, and respect for the fundamental rights of the UK and the countries involved.

However, several telecom services have targeted a major loophole in digital trade involving mobile and data roaming.

Roaming can be described as when a mobile phone is used outside the range of its native network (usually abroad).

Before Brexit, the EU roaming regulations enabled UK residents to use their usual tariffs for calls, data, and texts. This was permissible for their stay in twenty-eight (28) regional destinations in the EU without incurring an extra charge.

However, this advantage has ceased to be available to the Brits.

Ofcom, a UK-based reputable telecom consumption tracker, and regulator, has stated that some network providers now charge customers up to £2 per day to make calls, text, or browse the internet while traveling.

While many telecom providers have voluntarily continued to send their customers an alert when their mobile device starts roaming, the telecom regulator has discovered that the information provided was inconsistent and lacked clarity.

According to Ofcom research, 19% (nearly one in five UK residents) on holiday in EU nations were unaware they could incur extra charges when using their mobile phones.

It worsens as 18% did not research mobile and data roaming charges before traveling.

Roaming fees

Ofcom statistics report on mobile and data roaming charges.

However, this could be changed if roaming alerts in the UK were consistent and simple to understand.

According to the telecom researcher report, 94% of UK travelers relied on roaming alerts, and 84% read them.

Of the travelers who read these alerts, 94% rated them helpful, and 72% stated they modified how they text, call, and browse after seeing one.

When these alerts were received, up to 29% of travelers used Wi-Fi, 26% used less data, and 24% switched off data roaming services.

Inadvertent Roaming Is Rampant in the UK

According to Ofcom telecom consumption data, users have also experienced inadvertent roaming, which automatically incurs massive fees.

This happens when a mobile device connects to networks in different countries even though the user is still within the UK.

Research showed that 22% of UK residents living in areas close to the border of Ireland experienced inadvertent roaming in 2022.

Additionally, 14% of users experienced this in different areas in the country or abroad, including 2% of customer devices connected with French telecom services even while on English borders.

Ofcom Introduces New Roaming Alert Protection for Consumers and Small Businesses

On July 20th, Ofcom published a public proposal for roaming alert rules and guidance to strengthen customers’ protection.


According to the 78-page rules and guidance report, five rules have been proposed to protect inbound and outbound UK residents from excessive roaming charges dispersed by telecom services.

These rules, heralded as “General Conditions,” are Contract summary and information, Information publication and transparency, Billing information and notification, Accessible formats, and Bill limits.

ofcom roaming proposal

Ofcom Mobile roaming proposal: Strengthening customer protections

The Contract summary and information rule will enforce UK telecom services to provide residential and small businesses with a summary of telecom service contracts.

This contract must contain billing prices, fair use of policies, and facilities to monitor bills and usage. It ensures consumers have clear information about service offerings before entering a contract.

Information publication and transparency rules will force network providers to publish specific information for residential and small business customers.

This information entails descriptions of services offered, which includes pricing and mode of operation to ensure transparency and enable consumers to compare offerings with other telecom services.

Billing information and notifications come as the third rule. If implemented, network providers will be required to make billing information available to users, enabling them to understand the charges on their bills.

This should contain roaming charges, metering and billing direction, and a breakdown of international and roaming calls, data, call packages, and expected fees.

The Accessible formats rule will make it compulsory for telecom services to provide communications on roaming services in acceptable formats as customers require.

Accessible formats will safeguard users and provide equivalent access to all customers regarding information about services offered.

Lastly, the Bill limits rule, currently a legal Act in section 124S of the Communication Act, will force network providers to offer residential and business customers the option of a bill limit.

This will help users set their bill limit and be more conscious about usage.

The rule also makes it mandatory for telecom service providers to notify users when the set limit is likely to be reached or has been reached. This will trim down unexpected bills that have been rampant so far.

In reaction to these proposed rules, UK-based mobile experts have lauded the Ofcom telecom service proposed regulations as the best framework that truly protects residential and business consumers.

According to a recent BBC report, Ernest Doku, a mobile expert of Uswitch, exclusively affirmed his strong support for the UK network provider regulator due to the lack of competent policies to guard against massive costs.

There is growing optimism that the UK government will approve the proposed regulatory framework in the coming days.

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